Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



From Middle French ossifrage, from Latin ossifraga (osprey), ossifragus (osprey), from ossifragus (bone breaking).



ossifrage (plural ossifrages)

  1. (archaic) Gypaetus barbatus, the diet of which is almost exclusively bone marrow.
    • 1611, King James Version, Leviticus 11:13:
      And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray []
    • 1880, [uncredited English translator], The Man who Laughs by Victor Hugo, Book the Third, Chapter I:
      Calcareous lies, slate, and trap are still to be found there, rising from layers of conglomerate, like teeth from a gum; but the pickaxe has broken up and leveled those bristling, rugged peaks which were once the fearful perches of the ossifrage.
    • 1885, Richard Francis Burton, The Book of the Thousand and One Nights Story 162, "The Spider and the Wind":
      Yes; for these two passions, when they enter into a man, alter his wisdom and understanding and judgment and wit, and he is like the Ossifrage which, for precaution against the hunters, abode in the upper air, of the excess of his subtlety []
    • 1922, James Joyce, Ulysses, Part II, Chapter 14:
      The aged sisters draw us into life: we wail, batten, sport, clip, clasp, sunder, dwindle, die: over us dead they bend. First, saved from waters of old Nile, among bulrushes, a bed of fasciated wattles: at last the cavity of a mountain, an occulted sepulchre amid the conclamation of the hillcat and the ossifrage.
  2. (obsolete) The young of the sea eagle or bald eagle.
  3. (Britain) The osprey.
    • 1601, Philemon Holland, The Historie of the World. Commonly called, The Naturall Historie of C. Plinius Secundus, Book X, Chapter 3:
      And their young Ospraies bee counted a kind of Ossifragi: from them come the lesser Geires, they againe breed the greater, which engender not at all. Some reckon yet another kind of Ægle, which they cal Barbatæ; and the Tuscanes, Ossifrage.
    • 1871 Robert Browning,Balustrion's Adventure: A Transcript from Euripides, line 117–24:
      And we were just about
      To turn and face the foe, as some tire bird
      Barbarians pelt at, drive with shouts away
      From shelter in what rocks, however rude,
      She makes for, to escape the kindled eye,
      Split beak, crook'd claw o' the creature, cormorant
      Or ossifrage, that, hardly baffled, hangs
      Afloat i' the foam, to take her if she turn.


For use of the term to refer to ospreys in England as well as the misidentification of sea eagles as ossifrage, see Theodore Gill, "The Osprey or Fishhawk: Its Characteristic and Habits," The Osprey: An Illustrated Magazine of Popular Ornithology, Volume V, no. 2, pp. 25–26 (Nov.-Dec. 1990).




  1. vocative singular of ossifragus